Joseph Fielding Smith, the only president whose father was also president, became tenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January 1970 at the age of ninety-three. His father, Joseph F. Smith, was sixth president; his grandfather was Hyrum Smith, the Prophet’s brother.
“It is thy privilege to live to a good old age and the will of the Lord that you should become a mighty man in Israel. … The hand of the Lord has been and is over thee for good. … It shall be thy duty to sit in counsel with thy brethren and to preside among the people.” This patriarchal blessing was given to Joseph Fielding Smith in 1896 at the age of twenty.
President Smith’s life spanned all the presidents of the Church except Joseph Smith. He was born July 19, 1876, in Salt Lake City and died July 2, 1972, at age ninety-five. Although president for only 2 1/2 years, he served in the Council of the Twelve longer than any other man—for sixty years—after being ordained by his father in 1910 at age thirty-three. He was the oldest man to become a President of the Church.
“There is no more faithful person in all the world than Joseph Fielding Smith, … no one is more in tune, no one is better prepared to receive those directions from the Lord. …” (President Nathan Eldon Tanner, speech given at Church Historian’s Office, June 29, 1970.)
His administration saw many changes and much growth in the Church—the YMMIA and the Aaronic Priesthood programs were coordinated; the Church social services and medical missions were begun; the first area general conference was held, in England; the teacher development program was started; and the Church magazines were put under the present system.
President Smith was Church Historian longer than any other man—for sixty-four years. His Essentials in Church History was for years the basic one-volume book on the subject. He was also the author of many books on Church doctrine that will make a lasting contribution to the body of Church literature.